Everybloom
Op.146

for SATB choir with solos, consort of viols (2 treble, tenor, 2 bass)
15 mins.
|
April 2016
|

awaiting publication by Gonzaga

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_BloomA setting of a text drawn by the composer from James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Everybloom was commissioned in 2015 by the New Cambridge Singers, with support from Arts Council England and The RVW Trust.  It was first performed by New Cambridge Singers and  viol consort Newe Vialles, conducted by Graham Walker on 1st April 2017 in Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge and on 22nd April at St James, Sussex Gardens, London.

 

Programme note

I have always been fascinated by Ulysses, but  its density of language defeated me when I tried to read in its entirety; so I would dip into it, concentrating on one section of the book at a time.  The novel records the events of a day in 1904 in the life of Leopold Bloom – a Dubliner and second-generation Jewish immigrant, and therefore both insider and outsider. Set into the narrative of a Dublin Ulysses’ return to his somewhat unchaste Penelope (Molly) are several virtuoso set-pieces. One of these presents mundane narrative details in the form of a mad questionnaire; another travels through English literature from Middle English to the twentieth century, parodying its stylistic patterns. In this section, at the point which represents early Tudor English, I found the following:

“Therefore, Everyman, look to that end which is thy death and the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman for as he came naked forth from his mother’s womb so naked shall he wend him at the last.”

This parody of the King James Bible (Book of Job, ch. 1 v. xxi) seemed fittingly earthy for voices and viols; and Bloom’s calm, non-religious meditation on death after he attends a friend’s funeral counterbalances the dazzling life-force projected by the novel as a whole, which culminates in Molly Bloom’s naughty and beautiful soliloquy at its close. Around and between these I have set a variety of related fragments – including lines from Night town (a surreal dramatic sketch set in Dublin’s red light district), and a mad litany which vividly recalls the insane Catholic indoctrination of my early childhood. The overall message, as I see it, is that life is brief, messy and wonderful – and far grander and more important than the sum of our human endeavours:

“Once you are dead you are dead.

No one is anything.”

Some may find this scary; to me it has the calm ring of truth, and offers perspective, acceptance and consolation.

Giles Swayne

Text

EVERYBLOOM

ALL:  Night-town.

MEN (lecherously):  Street of harlots.

WOMEN:  Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

FEMALE SOLOS:

Mr. Bloom! You down here in the haunts of sin?

Disgraceful! A married man!

To attempt my virtue! Sully my innocence!

You are not fit to touch the garment of a pure woman.

MALE SOLO:  Thrash the mongrel within an inch of his life!

MEN:  Take down his trousers!

FEMALE SOLOS:  Geld him!

WOMEN:  Vivisect him!

BASS SOLO 1 (Magistrate):  Whereas Leopold Bloom is a well-known bigamist, bawd and cuckold. . .

ALL:  bigamist . . . cuckold . . . and a public nuisance . . .

BASS SOLO 2:  Let him be taken from the dock and hanged by the neck until he is dead.

MEN:  Remove him!

BLOOM:  Her artless blush unmanned me.

ALL:  Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

BLOOM:  A saint couldn’t resist it.

MALE VOICES:  Mankind is incorrigible.

BLOOM:  Peccavi!

VARIOUS VOICES:  Kidney of Bloom, Pray for us.

Flower of the Bath, Pray for us.

Wandering Soap, Pray for us.

Sweets of Sin, Pray for us.

Friend of all Frillies, Pray for us.

Midwife most merciful, Pray for us.

Potato preservative against Plague and Pestilence,

Pray for us.

ALL: The dear dead days beyond recall.

ALL:  The cock crew,  The sky was blue:

The bells in heaven  Were striking eleven.

‘Tis time for this poor soul To go to heaven.

ALL:  The resurrection and the life.

SOLO VOICES:  One born every second somewhere.

Other dying every second.

I see them pop off every day.

Kick the bucket.

Funerals all over the world everywhere every minute.

Thousands every hour.

Too many in the world.

ALL:  Once you are dead you are dead. No one is anything.

ALL: Therefore, everyman, look to that last end that is thy death and the dust that gripeth on every man that is born of woman for as he came naked forth from his mother’s womb so naked shall he wend him at the last for to go as he came.

But tomorrow is a new day will be. Past is today.

What now is will then tomorrow as now was be past yester.

MALE VOICES:  In the rough sands of the sea . .

Where the tide ebbs . . . and flows . . .

FEMALE VOICES:  Yes O Yes Yes

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  God of heaven there’s nothing like nature – the wild mountains – then the sea and the waves rushing . . .

SOLO SOP 2:  the wild mountains – then the sea and the waves rushing – then the beautiful country with fields of oats and wheat . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  fields of oats and wheat and all kinds of things – and all the fine cattle going about – that would do your heart good . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  that would do your heart good to see rivers and lakes – and flowers all sorts of shapes and smells and colours . . .

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  and flowers all sorts of shapes and smells and colours – springing up even out of the ditches – primroses and violets. . .

SOLO SOP 2:  primroses and violets – there’s nothing like nature – as for them saying there’s no God, I wouldn’t give two fingers for all their learning . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  I wouldn’t give a snap of my fingers for all their learning – atheists or whatever they call themselves – they’re afraid of hell . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  I often asked him – atheists or whatever they call themselves – then they go howling for a priest – and they dying . . .

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  whatever they call themselves – afraid of hell on account of their bad conscience – ah yes I know them well – who was the first person in the universe? . . .

SOLO SOP 2:  who was the first person in the universe before there was anybody that made it all? Ah, that they don’t know neither do I, so there you are . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  that they don’t know neither do I, so there you are – they might as well try to stop the sun from rising tomorrow . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  they might as well stop the sun from rising tomorrow – why don’t they go and create something? . . .

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  why don’t they go and create something? – the sun shines for you he said – the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth Head . . .

SOLO SOP 2:  the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth Head – the day I got him to propose to me – it was leap year like now . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  it was leap year like now sixteen years ago – my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath – he said I was a flower of the mountain . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  he said I was a flower of the mountain – that was one true thing he said in his life – that was why I liked him

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  that was why I liked him – because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is – and I gave him all the pleasure I could . . .

SOLO SOP 2:  I gave him all the pleasure I could – leading him on until he asked me to say yes – and I wouldn’t answer at first . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  I wouldn’t answer at first – only looked out over the sea and the sky – I was thinking of so many things he didn’t know of . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  I was thinking of so many things – the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs – and the auctions in the morning . . .

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

SOLO SOP 1:  and the wineshops half open at night – and the castanets – and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras . . .

SOLO SOP 2:  and O that awful deepdown torrent – and the sea, the sea – crimson sometimes like fire – and the glorious sunsets . . .

SOLO ALTO 1:  and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens – and all the queer little streets – and pink and blue and yellow houses . . .

SOLO ALTO 2:  and the rosegardens – and the jessamine – and the geraniums – and Gibraltar where I was a Flower of the mountain . . .

ALL:  Yes yes O Yes

ALL: Therefore, everyman, look to that last end that is thy death.  Yes.

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